Women are more confused by financial jargon, in comparison to their male counterparts

New research out today reveals that banks/building societies are at risk of bombarding customers with too much financial jargon – potentially losing their custom to a competitor because they simply don’t understand the language used by them.

NS&I’s ‘Jargon Buster’ survey shows that only 67% of Britons know what a BACS payment is and (38%) know what AER means. 55% of Britons surveyed know what the term Gross means but surprisingly, only half (53%) know what ISA stands for. However, men (56%) were slightly more in the know as to what the terms ISA stands for – in comparison to their female counterparts (50%). Overall, women are more confused when it comes to financial jargon.

The survey highlights the importance for financial companies to use easy to understand language, as 60% of those surveyed admit they are likely to stop saving with a particular bank/building society if they can’t understand the language they use to explain terms and conditions, with nearly a fifth (18%) strongly agreeing that they find the language used in product brochures confusing.

Financial terms that Britons are most confused with

  • FSCS (77%) – Financial Service Compensation Scheme
  • AER (62%) – Annual Equivalent Rate
  • ISA (47%) – Individual Savings Account
  • Gross (45%) – Interest that is paid to you without savings tax being taken off

Furthermore, 41% were confused by call centre staff, 49% by terminology in application forms, 50% by jargon used on company websites and 51% by phrases used in letters. A quarter of Britons (25%) that found company websites confusing, admitted that this confusion had stopped them from saving with a particular bank/building society.

Reasons customers would consider changing bank/building society

  • No guarantee that your money is safe (74%)
  • Poor customer service (72%)
  • Uncertain rate of return (66%)
  • Terms and conditions they don’t understand (60%)
  • No UK call centre (58%)
  • Confusing language / jargon (54%)

Many are probably too embarrassed to admit they are confused by financial jargon, but when confronted with it, 62% of Britons surveyed resort to a search engine to find out what a term or phrase means, 27% ask friends and family and one in ten (10%) admit to guessing what something could mean. Therefore it’s not surprising that over a third of Britons (37%) are more likely to switch to a financial service provider that uses straightforward language.

Julian Hynd, Director of Retail at NS&I, said

“It’s clear that customers are being bombarded with financial jargon, not only from their bank/building society but other financial service providers too. But it’s important for customers to remember that although the information supplied to them won’t be a riveting read, it will provide essential information relevant to them.

“We want to make it easier for our customers to do business with us and provide them with an experience that won’t leave them confused. We believe in using plain language – that’s why we only have UK based call centres that are open 24/7, 365 days a year, giving our customers peace of mind that if they can’t find what they are looking for online, then there will always be someone on the other end of the line, should they wish to get in touch.”

About this research

The Jargon Buster Survey was conducted by TNS, among 1,208 Great British adults aged 16+ between 10 and 14 July 2014.

About NS&I

NS&I is one of the UK’s largest financial providers with over 25 million customers and over £100 billion invested. All products offer 100% security, because NS&I is backed by HM Treasury. NS&I products are available over the telephone, internet, post and by standing order.